Her father is a notorious radio personality; she once performed in the nude; but now, she would rather be studying Torah.
Meet Emily Stern, the infamous eldest daughter of Howard Stern whose passion for Judaism eventually led her to become an emerging Orthodox figure.
The 32-year-old actress, poet and Torah scholar, who was raised in a Reform household on Long Island, always felt connected to her religion but did not understand the full capacity of its practices.
“I had a desire, really to actually find a community and a world that actually resonated with me,” she told Allison Josephs in a web-based radio interview for the popular blog, “Jew in the City.” “It felt important for me to do that.”
It was not until after she graduated from NYU and faced both the internal struggle of her parents’ divorce and the public embarrassment of a director’s decision to leak explicit photographs from her role in an earlier theater performance, that Stern sought out a stronger religious identity.
And she found it: in a Jewish Renewal havdalah ceremony in a yoga studio.
“I walked into my first havdalah ceremony … and I had never seen something ritual and the way it was relating to the world in such a grounded way,” said Stern on “Jew in the City.” “It really gave me an opportunity to begin to relate to matter in a way that was authentic for me.”
After her initial encounter with a traditional religious services, which was hosted by Manhattan-based Romemu, Stern began to participate in Judaism through a variety of creative means. She wrote a play as part of an art fellowship at the Upper West Side Seminary Drisha Institute, wrote a children’s songbook based on Perek Shira (an ancient Jewish text), and now is curating a photography project called “The Wells of Miriam” that is based on the Jewish ritual of mikvah.
As Stern explained on “Jew in the City,” such opportunities allow the actress-author to merge her independent Jewish and artistic identities.
“I feel like I’ve really found two ways of expressing my soul in the world authentically. Which is through halacha and also through sharing my art.”